A Key to Sports Success
John D. Moore
Let's talk a little bit about proprioception for a minute.
That's a $3 SAT word that means your body's ability to react
properly to external forces. For example: if you ride bulls
for fun, you must have the ability to react to gravity and
the changing forces of the bull to keep from being thrown
off. That's proprioception. But proprioception is also your
ability to walk across a room without falling down.
One of the main components of proprioception is your kinesthetic
sense. That is your ability to sense where your body is in
space. But that's only one component unless your sport happens
to involve standing or lying in space.
You must also be able to sense and control your body's movements.
Think of a gymnast showing perfect control as she throws herself
about the parallel bars. The key here is the appropriate control
of tension by your central nervous system.
Balance is also a key element to proprioception. You will
not perform your sport very well if you fall down all the
time. Balance is also a key to generating power - as any martial
artist will tell you. Balance in movement as occurs in walking
or running, is a process of constantly and consciously losing
your balance and regaining it quickly. The quicker you can
regain your balance, the safer your movement.
Deliberate Proprioceptive training has normally been reserved
for people who are in rehabilitation from injuries. Sports
injuries in particular can leave decreased performance in
the mechanoreceptors in the body. Exercises for balance and
greater kinesthetic sense are usually prescribed.
The benefits of proprioceptive training to the healthy athlete
are many. With increased balance athletes are less prone to
injury. Athletes may also become quicker - in athletic terms
this mean they can change direction faster. Proprioceptive
training helps them make more precise movements with less
effort. Think about the martial artist throwing that jumping
spinning wazzu - butterfly kick - now that's proprioception.
So, the benefits break down to safer, more efficient, quicker,
and more precise movement. What athlete wouldn't want that?
To be fair, any type of training you do is already working
your proprioception - unless you are training for the sleep
Olympics. Playing you sport itself is a functional integration
of your proprioceptive skills. However, you may want to spend
some time focusing on proprioceptive training - to increase
proprioception, then integrate that into your sport.
Like any kind of training, proprioceptive training should
be challenging. This forces an adaptive response on your body's
central nervous system. This is much like lifting weights
where most of the strength gains come from the nervous system
- and not from increasing muscle size. If all you ever do
is lift light weights that aren't challenging for you - you
aren't going to get much stronger.
So, I can hear you asking, "what exercises can I do for proprioceptive
That's a great question. Let me tell you that there is an
astounding array of exercises designed to increase proprioception.
You know those big rubber stability balls that every gym has
these days? Those are great for proprioception. There are
also wobble boards, Styrofoam doo-hickies, and all sorts of
crazy wobbly things designed to challenge your balance and
Certain yoga exercises are also designed to challenge balance,
as are some forms of kettlebell lifting. To get some sport-specific
proprioceptive training I suggest you check with a qualified
John D. Moore is a personal protection, self defense,
and fitness instructor. He is the co-founder of Martial Training
Systems (see http://www.martialtrainingsystems.com
) and author of the book Quotations for Martial Artists.
Article Source: http://www.hotlib.com/articles